A muscled up Moderna finally joins the COVAX crew, pledging 500M doses for low-income countries
Days after turbocharging its Covid-19 vaccine manufacturing capacity to the tune of 3 billion doses per year, Moderna announced Monday it has struck a deal with Gavi, the vaccine alliance, to supply up to 500 million doses of its shot to the lowest income countries by the end of next year.
The discussions date back at least to last October, when Moderna told investors about ongoing discussions with COVAX “on a tiered pricing proposal for purchasing mRNA-1273.”
All doses will be sold at the “lowest tiered price,” according to the Cambridge, MA-based biotech, and be distributed among 92 countries.
Under the final agreement, Moderna will begin delivery of 34 million doses in Q4 of 2021, while the COVAX facility — spearheaded by Gavi, WHO and CEPI — has an option to procure the remaining 466 million doses following those initial shipments.
CEPI, the Norway-based group dedicated to funding epidemic preparedness, had given Moderna a $900,000 grant back in January 2020. The WHO, meanwhile, had just added mRNA-1273 — which was shown to be about 95% effective in Phase III trials and continues to offer decent protection against variants in real world settings — to the list of vaccines it recommends for emergency use against Covid-19.
With shots from Pfizer, AstraZeneca and the Serum Institute of India in its portfolio, COVAX has so far shipped over 49 million Covid-19 vaccines. The largest donor, though, is Novavax, which has agreed to supply 1.1 billion doses of its yet-to-be-approved protein-based jab.
“Expanding and having a diverse portfolio has always been a core goal for COVAX, and to remain adaptable in the face of this continually evolving pandemic – including the rising threat posed by new variants,” Gavi chief Seth Berkley said in a statement.
In a recent interview with Endpoints News, Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel described their expanded production commitment as a “massive investment” aimed at vaccinating and boosting populations around the world.
“We said look, we have a certain responsibility as a company and we will invest aggressively … so that next year we can have a big impact,” Bancel said. “If you think about it, look at the population of the planet, you see that 70% of people want the vaccine, which is what we’re seeing in polls across the world, and if we can make 3 billion vaccines, that will be, for a company that just launched its first product a few months ago, extraordinary.”